How can our hobby be declining when high-end show attendance keeps going up?

Roger Skoff ( writes:  I had the pleasure of attending and, in some small way, participating in T.H.E. Show Newport recently, and both the evidence of my eyes and the word of the promoters tell me that that it set new records for attendance, both by exhibitors and the public.

Frankly, that has me a little bit baffled: For the past several years, people, including me, have been bewailing the fate of our hobby and our industry. We've been issuing dire warnings of our industry's ultimate disappearance, either into a pablum of uninspiring sound intended to be played on fancy smartphones by uninterested people or into a tiny enclave of militant Hi-Fi Crazies bravely clutching their analog and their exquisitely good but violently expensive gear to their bosoms as a talisman against impending musical darkness.

Even I have said much the same thing: In an article in another publication called "Electric Trains" (Audiophile Review December, 13, 2012), I wrote that, in just my own lifetime, electric trains had gone from something owned by every boy and, at Christmas-time, to be found circling every tree, to the very expensive hobby of just a tiny core of affluent and very committed old men, and I said that, unless something very major were done very soon, a similar fate seemed to be in store for audiophile-quality high fidelity sound.

One bit of evidence that those bleak prophesies may already be in the process of coming true is the undeniable fact that there has been a steady decline in the number of specialty high-end audio dealers across the United States of America. This has been going on, it seems, almost since the dust first settled following the highly touted and exceedingly successful introduction of the compact disc (CD) in 1982, and, despite burgeoning audiophile markets abroad, has continued in the United States with fewer new dealers opening their doors each year than the number of established dealers closing them. As digital sound has become ever cheaper and more accessible to the general public, the public seems increasingly to have come to regard it as a utility and its players as appliances, and to have been willing to exchange potential sonic merit for convenience, portability, and the ability to carry your ten thousand favorite tunes around with you at all times in a device the size of a thin stack of postcards.


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